EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Members of Minnesota's largest business network said Wednesday, Jan. 8, that these times are among the most prosperous in state history.
But in previewing its report on the decade ahead, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce cautioned that the next 10 years will not be without challenges. Among them, chamber members said, will be slow growth in the state's population and labor force.
The chamber projected that both are expected to grow annually by only 0.57% and 0.67%, respectively.
"That's a concern," Tom Forsythe said to chamber members.
Speaking at the UnitedHealth campus in Eden Prairie, Forsythe — CEO of the Minneapolis-based CCO Communications — laid out several of the chamber report's findings ahead of its final publication date. The full report, which is being compiled by the private research firm IHS Markit, will include economic projections for Minnesota as a whole and for individual regions of the state.
Slow population and labor force growth would be in line with trends that have been observed in Minnesota for much of the current millennium. That trend began following several decades of more substantial growth in both measures.
Still, Forsythe noted, Minnesota suffered less than other states during the early 2000s and 2008 recessions.
One of the report findings shared Wednesday suggested an aging population might be the cause for some of Minnesota's slow labor force gains. Other more nebulous factors may also be at play, according to the chamber, such as discrimination against convicted criminals.
The slow growth of jobs and gross domestic product also appear to be of concern to the chamber. State officials aired similar concerns when debuting their own economic forecast in December. Both Minnesota's real GDP and per capita GDP have grown more slowly than the United States' since the early 2000s.
One explanation for that might be the more competitive nature of today's globalized economy. Speaking at a panel after Forsythe's presentation, UnitedHealthcare COO Philip Kaufman said that businesses now face decisions to create jobs not only in other states but also other countries.
Among the positives highlighted in the report include Minnesota's productivity rates, which are among the highest in the nation. To grow productivity at a rate competitive with the national average, the chamber called upon businesses to boost their efforts to recruit from out-of-state and foreign workers. Such efforts would also benefit the population, chamber representatives said.
Sean O'Neil of Grow Minnesota, the chamber's retention program, said that businesses may also be able to grow the labor market by hiring from a more diverse pool of job applicants. Diversity efforts, he said, come up frequently in conversation with job recruiters.
Overall, O'Neil said that slow population and labor growth are difficult obstacles for businesses to surmount on their own. Time and money might be better spent, he said, on improving productivity by either minimizing outlay or finding ways to add value to their goods and services after they are produced.
During Wednesday's panel, University of Minnesota business professor Myles Shaver suggested that growth might be difficult for Minnesota's economy to achieve as of late because it is already somewhat solid to begin with.